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Worldwide Export Ban on Certain Hazardous Wastes

Nairobi, 19 February 1998 - Meeting in Malaysia next week under the auspices of the Basel Convention, government ministers will specify the hazardous wastes that will be subject to a worldwide export ban from developed to developing countries.

Discussions will be based on two lists developed by the Basel Convention's Technical Working Group.

The first "hazardous waste" list would ban the export of wastes containing arsenic, lead, mercury, asbestos, and dozens of other chemicals and substances.

A second "non-hazardous" list includes wastes that would normally not be covered by the treaty. These are wastes that can be safely (and profitably) recycled or re-used, including scrap iron, steel or copper, certain electronic assemblies, non-hazardous chemical catalysts, and many ceramics, solid plastics and paper and textile wastes.

"The adoption of these lists will help clarify the rules of the game and enable governments to satisfy both environmental and economic concerns," said Mr. Klaus Topfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

"Such global environmental cooperation is critical at this time in which we witness the globalization of the economy, of markets, and of products," said Mr. Topfer. "Clearly specifying which wastes are covered by the Convention, and which are not, will enable countries to make more informed economic decisions," he said.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is the response of the international community to the problems caused by the annual world-wide production of 400 million tonnes of wastes which are hazardous to people or the environment because they are toxic, poisonous, explosive, corrosive, flammable, or infectious.

This global environmental treaty strictly regulates the transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and provides obligations to its Parties to ensure that such wastes are managed and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.

Note to Editors

The current meeting is known officially as the fourth meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP-4). It was originally scheduled for 6-10 October 1997 but had to be postponed due to the environmental emergency created by the out-of-control forest fires that spread thick smoke through Southeast Asia.

The Basel Convention was adopted in March 1989 after a series of notorious "toxic cargoes" from industrialized countries galvanized world outrage over the dumping of hazardous wastes in developing and East European countries. It entered into force in May 1992 and now has 117 Parties. COP-3 was held in Geneva in September 1995, and COP-5, marking the Convention's tenth anniversary, is likely to be held in Basel, Switzerland.

Note to journalists

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Michael Williams in Geneva at (+41-22) 979 9242/44, fax 797 3464, e-mail mwilliams@unep.ch

The press officer for the meeting is Mr. David Lazarus in Bangkok at (+662) 2882127, fax 2803829, or lazarus.unescap@un.org. During the meeting he can be contacted in Kuching (Crown Plaza Riverside Hotel) at (+60-82) 247 777, fax 425 858.

Please note that official documents and other materials are available in English on the Internet at http://www.unep.ch/basel/
UNEP Home Page (Nairobi):http://www.unep.org
UNEP News Release 1998/6

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For more information, please contact:

Mr. Tore J. Brevik, Director, UNEP
Information and Public Affairs
Tel: +254-2-623292, Fax: +254-2623692,
Email: Tore.Brevik@unep.org

Mr. Robert Bisset, UNEP Media and
Communications Officer, IPA
Tel: +254-2-623084, Fax: +254-2-623692,
Email: Robert.Bisset@unep.org

UNEP News Release 1998/3

Thursday 19 Feb 1998
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